In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “I have a feeling that I’ve seen everything, but failed to notice the elephants.” (Anton Chekhov)
The phrase “elephant in the room” is oft used to refer to something or someone that should be too big to be ignored. It may be an unspoken prejudice that causes someone or everyone discomfort. It might be the presence of someone unexpected or unappreciated or perhaps who stands out from the rest of the crowd. Perhaps it is the introduction of a controversial conversation topic into the room. Whatever it is, there is a difference between failing to notice the elephant and ignoring the elephant.
One may be forgiven for being so blissfully ignorant of the situation that they fail to see the elephant in the room; however, tolerance of the elephants of hate or prejudice or fear of those who might be different is a willful act that cannot be forgiven. If one wallows in the mud bath with those elephants, they too get muddy.
The thing is that if you recognize those elephants in the room that you just entered, you are no longer blissfully ignorant and have to make a choice on how you react. Silence in the face of those elephants is usually seen as acceptance or willful tolerance of the behavior and the elephant splashes mud on you. At a minimum, distancing yourself from that situation or those people at least removes the threat that you could be association with their behavior or opinions; however, that is a very passive way of protesting or showing your true feelings.
There is another common saying that actually speaks to the same subject; it is when you say that you are “treading on egg shells.” What that saying refers to is someone who recognizes that the elephant is there but who wants to avoid discussing it or dealing with it. Perhaps it is avoiding talking with someone about a health or life situation that you know they are going through. You don’t want to bring it up, because you don’t want to acknowledge that elephant or get involved in helping the other person deal with it or perhaps just don’t feel like listening to their story. In that case, you are being willfully intolerant of their elephant.
What are we instructed to do about the elephants that we encounter? Certainly not to willfully ignore them. Jesus did not ignore the elephants that he encountered. He healed the sick, raised the dead, ate with the sinners and spread the word of God. He also left us some simple advice –
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – (Galatians 6:2)
Do you see the elephants of hate, intolerance or fear around you in your everyday life? When you encounter life’s elephants in the room, you are called, not to ignore them; but to do what is right.
Have a great day and watch out for the elephants.